WATERVILLE — The gleaming glass building of the Colby College Museum of Art not only stands out on campus — surrounded by the red brick, Georgian-style classrooms and dormitories — but now also stands out across Maine.
A new addition means the museum now has 38,000 square feet of exhibition space, the largest in the state. The museum's more than 8,000 works will be on display when it reopens to the public July 14 after more than a year of renovations.
Organizers hope that the revamped museum — along with others like the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Portland Museum of Art and Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland — will put Maine on the map for art lovers across the country.
"I think that Colby along with those other institutions and the new addition will raise the profile of the state in terms of being a destination for art experiences," said Sharon Corwin, the museum's director and chief curator.
The glass facade of the new Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion is designed to reflect the surroundings in the sun and allow the art to be seen from the outside at night. It adds 10,000 square feet of exhibition space to the museum's four wings and serves as the new entrance.
"The reflecting nature of the glass expresses the theme that art provides the opportunity to reflect on life," architect Frederick Fisher said in a statement.
Visitors are surrounded by art in the expanded museum. Making their way up a glass enclosed stairwell, visitors walk along a three-story wall drawing of red, blue and yellow lines by 20th-century American artist Sol LeWitt.
With that, Corwin said, she wanted to challenge the expectations and assumptions about where and what art can be.
"I want the building to feel like a place where art happens," Corwin said. "It happens on the side of buildings, it happens in hallways, it happens in bathrooms, it happens in the lobby."
The addition became necessary after Maine natives Peter and Paula Lunder donated about 500 works from their private collection to the museum. The new wing is primarily dedicated to displaying this collection.
The collection is a broad spectrum of mostly American art from colonial portraits to the 20th century's Georgia O'Keefe and Ansel Adams to contemporary artists like Alex Katz.
Visitors are taken through much of the collection thematically instead of chronologically.
A light blue room displays the images from the collection that portray water, like Rockwell Kent's "Tugboat on the Hudson." A deep purple room is home to works artists captured while living and working in Europe, Asia and Japan.
Six other exhibitions will be on display throughout the summer, including Chinese paintings, ceramics and sculptures loaned from the Museum of Fine Art in Boston.
Corwin said they will be able to host more programs to get the community and Colby College students even more involved. A large part of the museum's mission is to provide students with the ability to work with real pieces of art, which is even more important in the increasingly digital age, she said.
In big block letters on the glass wall of the building near the entrance, it reads: "The museum is a school; the artist learns to communicate; the public learns to make connections."
"When so much of it is mediated through a screen, to actually come in and see objects from ancient China gives you a different relationship to history, into a society than you might otherwise have," she said.